Hechinger takes closer look at pre-K in Idaho, and Idaho City

As one of only six states without state-funded pre-K, Idaho is always something of a poster child in the early education debate.

Recently, the New York-based Hechinger Report used Idaho City as a backdrop for an in-depth look at pre-K in Idaho.

The Idaho City story is well-documented. For years, the rural Basin School District has cobbled together a free pre-K program for all of its students, using federal Secure Rural School program dollars to pay the costs. Now, the district uses a voter-passed supplemental property tax levy to cover pre-K.

Districts such as Basin have to scramble to maintain a pre-K program, because the state does not fund early learning programs. While pre-K advocates had their chance to make presentations to the House and Senate education committees last month, no pre-K bill has surfaced this session.

Sen. Steven Thayn told Hechinger’s Lillian Mongeau that he has been working with Democrats and pre-K advocates on a bill that would provide $5 million for pre-K, while respecting the role of parents. The next step is to start “showing it around” to other lawmakers, Thayn, R-Emmett, told Mongeau.

Rep. Hy Kloc, the author of failed pre-K bills in past sessions, sounded philosophical. “If we could get someone to come down with a couple of tablets that say, ‘Teach early childhood education,’ that might work,” Kloc, D-Boise, told Mongeau.